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The traditions and culture of St. Patrick's Day

By CNN Staff

Published March 15, 2019

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St. Patrick's Day is full of traditions. But do you know where they came from? Here's a look at the holiday, celebrated every March 17th.

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St. Patrick

He is the patron saint of Ireland, but he was actually Scottish. He was captured as a teen and taken to Ireland, where he was enslaved.

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He converted to Christianity during this time and had prophetic dreams about saving Ireland. After he was ordained a bishop, he preached and converted Irish pagans.

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But he didn't actually drive away snakes from the country, as legend has it. That's because there were never any snakes in Ireland to begin with.

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Clovers

St. Patrick is said to have used a three-leaf clover to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagans of Ireland.

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Prayers

St. Patrick is known as one of the great Catholic missionaries. Traditionally in Ireland on this day, people attend church in the morning and pray for missionaries.

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Drink up!

The holiday often falls during Lent, when many Christians fast. However, Irish Christians take exception to drink, dance and feast in traditional celebration.

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Pinch-proof

Although Irish people traditionally wear the colors of the Irish flag (green, white and orange), the rest of the world has embraced wearing green.

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Parades

The first St. Patrick's Day parade held in New York was organized by Irish colonists in 1762, 14 years before the Declaration of Independence was signed.

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Green water

Chicago began dyeing its river green to celebrate St. Patrick's Day in 1964. Today, it uses food coloring, which is environmentally safe, to turn the river green.

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The White House -- and many community centers across the country -- will dye the water in their fountains green to commemorate the holiday.

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Food

The traditional holiday meal in Ireland is bacon and cabbage. But in much of the rest of the world, St. Patrick's Day is celebrated with corned beef.

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Leprechauns

This mischievous icon can be traced back to Ireland's pagan roots, which included belief in supernatural beings such as fairies.

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